The second annual Kāpiti Community Snorkel event went off without a hitch with 76 lucky participants experiencing the wonders of life beneath the waves at Rangatira Point inside the Kāpiti Marine Reserve.
The event on February 23 was organised by Mountains to Sea Wellington (MTSW), who are an endorsed provider of the award-winning Experiencing Marine Reserves programme, with support from the Department of Conservation, Guardians of Kāpiti Marine Reserve and Kāpiti Island Eco Tours.
Event organiser and MTSW director Zoe Studd was pleased with the weather and sea conditions which provided snorkellers with an opportunity to get up close and personal with a diverse range of marine life within the protected waters of Kāpiti Marine Reserve.
"We had an amazing and diverse group of participants with us on the day including one person who celebrated their 80th birthday at the event," she said.
"The snorkelling conditions were excellent with warm water and good visibility enabling participants to see for themselves the wonderful array of marine life that is protected by Kāpiti marine reserve."
MTSW's trained volunteers led participants on guided tours over the kelp beds and rocky reef where local fish species such as red moki, wrasse, marblefish, butterfish and even a stingray were encountered.
Due to its protected status, fish living within the reserve are less likely to be startled by the sight of strange looking wetsuit clad creatures, allowing for more and closer interactions with participants.
"After 26 years of total protection, it's great to see the abundance and diversity of fish and other marine life in the reserve going about their lives without fear, giving snorkellers a chance to get up close to fish that usually hide or flee at the first sign of a snorkeller," Zoe said.
"It's a real hidden treasure and so it was a pleasure for our staff and volunteers to be able to give people a glimpse of what life beneath the waves looks like.
"Seeing the smiles on the faces of people as they exited the water after their snorkel was hugely rewarding for our team.
"Our staff and team of dedicated volunteers work really hard to organise and run events like this and it is all made worthwhile by the positive reactions and enjoyment that these snorkelling experiences provide to participants."
Nick Cottrell describes his snorkeling experience in the Kāpiti Marine Reserve
"This was a rare chance to visit one of New Zealand's best natural taonga with a safety conscious and informative group.
"Kāpiti boasts an incredible underwater garden whose collection of banded wrasses, moki, blue cod and so much more mirrors the biodiversity in the forests above.
"Stepping onto the island, you're greeted with the sounds of the past — tieke, hihi, kokako, korimako and kaka fill the air.
"A truly special trip in a truly special place where the mountains really do meet the sea and you can bear witness to all that call it home."
Mountains to Sea Wellington have run a variety of community snorkel events over the summer as well as providing the Experiencing Marine Reserves programme to schools throughout the Wellington region.
Their next community snorkel event is happening at Whitireia Park in Porirua on the March 9 and will include free guided snorkel tours as well as shore-based activities.
For more information and to get involved as a volunteer see www.mountainstoseawellington.